This is the latest in a monthly series that presents excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder (with his brother Charles) of the Methodist movement.
The following is condensed from “The Marks of the New Birth,” Sermon 18 among Mr. Wesley’s standard sermons. For easier reading, some of the wording in this condensation has been slightly updated, based on the adaptation found in Renew My Heart (Barbour Books, 2011).
A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.
|Sin shall not have dominion over you. (Romans 6:14)
When we have the true, living faith by which we are born of God from above, a fruit which cannot be separated from it is power over outward sin of every kind, over every evil word and work. Wherever the blood of Christ is by faith applied to the heart, it “cleanse[s] your conscience from dead works” (Heb. 9:14).
His blood also gives power over inward sin; for it purifies the heart from every unholy desire and temper.
“How,” asked St. Paul, “shall we who [by faith] are dead to sin, live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:2). For “[o]ur old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6).
“Likewise, reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” Paul urges, “but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead…. For sin shall not have dominion over you.” (Rom. 6:11-14).
Paul then says, “God be thanked, that though you were [i.e., in time past] the servants of sin,” yet now “being free from sin, you have become the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18).
St. John asserts this same invaluable privilege of the sons of God, particularly with regard to power over outward sin. After he had been crying out, as one astonished at the depth of the riches of the goodness of God, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” (1 John 3:1), he soon adds, “Whoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for [God’s] seed remains in him: And he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).
Some will say, “True: Whoever is born of God does not commit sin habitually.” Habitually! Where is that in the text? I read it not. It is not written in the whole Book.
Adding “habitually” quite swallows up the text. The precious promise is utterly lost and the word of God is made of none effect.
Shall we not St. John interpret his own words? Examine the whole tenor of his discourse. In John 3:5, he had said, “Ye know that [Jesus Christ] was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” What is the inference he draws from this? “Whosoever abides in him sins not. Whoever sins has not seen him, neither known him” (1 John 3:6).
To his enforcement of this important doctrine, he adds a highly necessary caution: “Little children, let no one deceive you” (1 John 3:7) — for many will endeavor so to do, to persuade you that you may be unrighteous, that you may commit sin, and yet be children of God! “He who practices righteousness is righteous, even as [Jesus] is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”
It is then that the apostle says: “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for [God’s] seed remains in him: And he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this,” adds the apostle, “the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest.” By this plain mark — the committing or not committing sin — are they distinguished from each other.
Adapted in part from Renew My Heart,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
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